Police presence in the Stanton Park section of Capitol Hill has increased dramatically in the last few months - and the neighbors are raising a stink about it.
What has them so upset is the Police Association of D.C.'s plan to sell hard liquor at its newly established health and social club, at 608 Massachusetts Ave. NE.
"It is absolutely out of character with the neighborhood," said Barbara Bell, who lives next door and has helped gather signatures against the Police Association's liquor license request. "We feel that we just have to put our foot down and stop all these little clubs from just springing up anyplace. It's a residential neighborhood and we want to keep it that way."
"I don't see how anything but good can come out of the police being a part of the neighborhood," countered Det. Joseph S. Goldring, president of the police association. "These people seem to be concerned that policemen will bring down the neighborhood. Then they have 4,000 policemen in the city who are bringing down the city."
Bell and other neighbors have complained of loud late-night parties in the clubhouse gymnasium, and have accused the police association of moving onto the block under "false pretenses," as Mary Jayne, chairman of the Stanton Park Neighborhood Association, put it.
"Last year they had a very nice open house and we all went over there and talked, and everybody was happy to have the building occupied, to have the police there," said Bell. "And there was absolutely no intimation that they were going to apply for a liquor license."
The police association is the union that represents the U.S. Park Police and the uniformed division of the Secret Service. It also represented D.C. police officers until 1974, when it narrowly lost a representation election to the International Brotherhood of Police Officers.
The police association appeared to have won back its right to speak for D.C. police in an election held last year, but that result was eventually overturned by the D.C. Board of Labor Relations, and in a second vote the IBPO triumphed.
The police association purchased the property at 608 Massachusetts Ave. in April, 1977, for $200,000, according to Goldring. The building, zoned "R-4," had previously been a daycare center and church settlement house.
The building, which was extensively renovated after the Police Association purchased it, has a large second floor gymnasium, a basketball court, a weight lifting room, dart board and pinball machines. It is used by the association's 1200 members who pay dues of $51 a year. A liquor license would be an additional source of income for the association, but its financial position, according to its officers, is secure.
D.C. zoning law permits a private club in an R-4 residential zone without any special authorization from the city. But a labor organization's offices, or any other commercial use, requires permission from the Board of Zoning Adjustment.
The police association went before the BZA in May to ask for such permission, but was opposed by many of the same people and groups who have been fighting the liquor license application. The association then withdrew its zoning variance application indefinitely.
The police association has held several meeting with its neighbors, most recently on Monday night, trying to soften their opposition.Goldring told neighbors that the parties they had complained about - including one that had to broken up by D.C. police - had occurred on nights when the clubhouse had been rented out to other groups. There would be no more such parties in the future, he promised.
But Bell said she was skeptical. "Their past record is bad," she said. And Jayne characterized the recent meetings as "soothing and stroking" that was "too little and too late."
Goldring said yesterday that his campaign to smooth things over with the neighbors had been a frustrating experience. "I've found over the past three or four meetings with them that they have been trying to find ammunition to defeat the association and we've been well above board in trying to be honest with them," he said.
One party at the clubhouse was "a little loud at one time," Goldring said, "but all of that has been corrected." In any case, he added, "the neighbors have had louder and noisier parties than anything that's ever happened in this association."
Goldring said yesterday that they association does not conduct any of its business as a labor organization at the Massachusetts Avenue address. Most of that business is handled at its atttorney's offices, he said.